As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will to seek post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.
Friday 17th April 2020
'Recovering from "bad" religion'
This morning I was scrolling through Facebook to see what my friends were getting up to during the lockdown. One friend from South Queensferry was challenging his running pals to post a picture of themselves running, another friend encouraging a virtual fitness challenge, and friends over in Collieston posting about tonight’s on-line fitness group via Zoom. Facebook of course has its drawbacks. There is no guarantee that anything you are reading is true and accurate – as President Trump regularly asserts there is a lot of fake news out there. And sometimes people can be right but wrong at the same time. Let me explain.
My attention was drawn to a Facebook advert about ‘recovering from religion.’ [CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE WEBSITE] The organisation based in America was offering help, counselling and guidance for people who are no longer religious or have been damaged by religion. They also offer a so called The Secular Therapy Project, run by therapists who will offer ‘only evidence-based and non-religious treatment.’
Regretfully, in my 24 years of experience in ministry, I have become increasingly aware of how churches can become damaging places. Because of the deep trusting relationships formed through fellowship and hurting people looking for a place to belong, the church has the potential to become a place of deep healing or a place of great harm. I have seen both. Of course the church is made up of fallible, imperfect and broken people. And wherever you have people you have problems. Even clergy make mistakes. To this could be added one my other ‘obsession’ – religious fundamentalism. Fundamentalism could be described as faith with the ‘fun’ removed, it is ‘mental,’ and it is an ‘ism’
At the time of writing, we are still very much in the season of Easter. It is a season of start contrasts – a time of death and resurrection and a time of suffering and salvation, a time of deep sadness and overwhelming joy. But if we stand behind the complex series of events and personalities that make up the Easter narrative, two truths emerge. There is the great and mighty love of God who will not let us go. God’s love reaching out to humanity in all our sinfulness and pain. And there is grace. God’s grace. Grace breathing forgiveness from the cross and throwing open the gates of heaven.
So let me end here. People can be right and wrong at the same time. Some people do need help recovering from religion. They have been damage and hurt by the so called people of God. But throwing out the baby with the bath water is seldom the answer.
Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church
And the angel answered and said to the women, Fear not you: for I know that you seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there shall you see him: see, I have told you.
1 Corinthians 13
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
If you have been hurt by church (whether intentionally or by the thoughtless actions of others), reflect on how this makes you feel about God?
Does your current church proclaim a balanced gospel who resonates with grace and love? If not, is it time to move on?
‘When you know God loves you, you feel valuable, accepted and that you have a purpose. You know your sins are forgiven and you are free from guilt and condemnation. And no matter what you've done, you can have a new beginning in Christ.’
God intended our local church to be
House of Prayer
House of Love
House of Righteousness.-
No church has arrived at their mission.
Oh, how we need our Saviour each and every day. -
May our church be a place where we give and receive grace.
Remember those broken in spirit:
Hurt because of their experience of church
Hurt because of bad religion
Hurt by neglect
Hurt by the actions of others
Hurt by human thoughtlessness
Hurt by human selfishness
Continue to remember all who are affect by Corona Virus and lockdown
Young children desperate to play with pals
People feeling isolated, forgotten and unloved
People fearful for their health and well being
People who mourn
Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying
that we are born to eternal life.